Berlin Senate Planning Free City-Wide Wifi Network

By David Knight |

The Berlin Senate is looking for partners to help set up a comprehensive free wifi network for the city. Initially, the plan is to introduce the service in central, heavy-usage areas, followed by a gradual increase up to universal coverage within the Ringbahn.

Fortunately for those of us who pay taxes in the German capital, the Berlin authorities – which have had serious money problems for years – have ruled out any direct funding. Instead, the system will rely on advertising income. So what will it mean for Berliners to have constant, free Internet access?

The plans were revealed in a document released by the office of the Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit. The letter states that any new network would not be design replace existing ones, but rather to complement and work with them through mesh networks.

‘Sensitive areas’ such as prisons would not be covered by the proposed network. Any company interested in taking part has until the end of October to register their interest, so we could perhaps even see city-wide – or at least, Mitte-wide – free wifi by Christmas.

“Free wifi networks are the rails of the information society,” said Björn Böhning, head of the Senate Chancellery, according to heise online.

The idea of a free municipal wifi network for Berlin has been proposed before, although the cost has generally made it difficult to implement. This summer, however, The Wall AG have provided such a service at more than 20 locations in the city, including at tram stops.

But will it really be worth it in an age where many people – and I would wager that in areas such as Mitte, it would be a large majority – aren’t too concerned about having wifi everywhere they go? With phone contracts generally having inclusive data usage, many would argue that it’s just not that important. There is wifi at home, at work and in any cafe, bar or restaurant you may care to go into. There’s even an app specifically for Berlin which tells you the location of nearby public-access networks.

On the other hand, municipal wifi networks are already in place – at least to some extent – in many cities around the world, including Bangkok, Geneva, Denver and Wellington. Should Berlin really be giving up ground to other cities just as it is trying to cement its reputation as a tech hub? And isn’t it a good thing that the Berlin Senate has acknowledged the importance of digital access?

Let us know what you think below.